Arbroath solar park launches £4.7 million community renewable energy crowdfunding offer

A new £4.7 million community renewable energy bond offer is being launched by Triodos Bank for Empower Community Foundation - a charity that owns two 5MW solar parks including one near Arbroath

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TRIDOS Bank UK is launching a £4.7 million community renewable energy bond offer on its crowdfunding platform (triodoscrowdfunding.co.uk) for Empower Community Foundation. 

The bond has a term of 16 years paying 4.25% gross interest annually. The interest rate will rise with inflation each year. As with all investments, interest payments and return of capital are not guaranteed. 

There is a £50 minimum investment, and the bond is eligible to be held in a Triodos Innovative Finance ISA (IFISA) that allows interest to be received tax-free. ISA eligibility does not guarantee returns or protect consumers from losing their money.

Empower Community Foundation is a charity that owns two 5MW solar parks, one near Salisbury in England and one near Arbroath, in Scotland. Both solar parks were completed in 2016 and combined have been generating electricity from over 38,0000 solar panels to power the equivalent of approximately 2,600 homes a year. 

The organisation distributes surplus income generated in the projects back to local communities through grant programmes. This has recently included funding Covid-19 support in Angus and family resilience in Salisbury.

The solar parks were originally brought into community ownership using bridging loans to fund the transaction. The majority of this has been refinanced using a secured long-term loan from Triodos Bank UK. The crowdfunding bond will repay the remainder of this loan and secure the long-term funding for the remaining life of the solar parks.

The refinancing will be at a lower cost than the existing short-term lending, which will increase the amount of money available for community projects. Community payments are forecast to be around £1.3 million over the 16-year term of the bond.

Alex Grayson, trustee of Empower Community Foundation, said: “Building resilience in local communities is what we are set up to do. We want communities to benefit from an acceleration of the transition to a decentralised energy economy. This bond will ensure that these two community solar projects have funding in place for their remaining life, meaning that each solar park will generate more income for the local community to meet local needs. We are delighted to be working with Foundation Scotland, Wiltshire Community Foundation and Triodos Bank to this end.”

Richard O’Brien, corporate finance manager at Triodos Bank UK, said: “We continue to see strong support from our investors for community energy projects and are delighted to be involved in another offer. Empower Community has been able to offer long-term support to community initiatives as a keystone funder and also pivot quickly to support communities through Covid. The increased resilience from independent income, as well as the positive environmental impact, make this a great project to work on.”

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